Take Five is The Arctic Institute’s news roundup that gives you everything you need to know about what’s happened in the Arctic this week. Short in length but big on insight, from politics and culture to the environment and security, we look beneath the headlines to see what’s really going on. Published each Friday, our quick and fun redux breaks down the five biggest circumpolar stories with fresh editorial analysis so you can get caught up on the region in under five minutes. Take Five means you’ll never miss a beat on what matters most.
Drill, baby, drill: So we meet again?
After fossil fuel friendly Trump’s ascendancy to President-elect and a Republican sweep of the state of Alaska, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is back in the news. Riding the momentum, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Alaska’s state Senator who just got re-elected for a third term, is championing revisiting drilling in ANWR as chair of the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (KTUU). Meanwhile, it’s likely that the Trump administration will oversee a lot of deregulation in the energy sector in order to foster US energy independence. And – if you haven’t already had enough déjà vu – Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska (2006 – 2009), is being floated as a candidate for Secretary of the Interior (Oilprice).
TAKE 1: With Alaska having fallen on hard economic times in recent years, opening up ANWR for drilling in a more temperate political climate would probably be a boon for the state. But that’s not the only warming climate there, and with strong opposition from environmentalists already being voiced this won’t go down without a fight.
In response to Russian activity, Norway beefs up defense
In the wake of the US President-elect’s skepticism over US commitments to NATO with rising geopolitical tensions between NATO and Russia, Norway, warily eying its eastern neighbor, is taking matters into its own hands. Though the decision has already been made to send US Marines to Norway, the Norwegian government has just earmarked NOK 2.1 billion (€231 million) year-on-year beginning in 2017 for its defense budget, and has also last week signed a defense deal with the UK (TBO, New Europe).
TAKE 2: While help from the US and the time-honored strategy of military deterrence seems to be favored by Norway’s political center, it’s not without domestic critics: the far left and populist right both view increased US involvement as an unwelcome foreign influence on Oslo.
With eye on Arctic, Canada also bumps up spending
It’s no secret that the Canadian Navy has suffered from chronic underfunding and procurement issues. With a contentious sovereignty claim over an increasingly-navigable Northwest Passage – and now an increasingly-active Russian neighbor – many in Canada have been calling for more investment in the Navy. It looks like the Liberal government is listening: the Department of National Defense is gearing up to replace its aging fleet with up to 15 new warships (Defense News). And on November 8th, the government unveiled a new CAD $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan that would, among other things, expand the Northern Coast Guard’s capabilities including emergency response (Nunatsiaq, CBC).
TAKE 3: Navel investments won’t just help Canada’s Arctic sovereignty: increasing Coast Guard capabilities is important for the safety of Northern residents. And with a co-management plan with Indigenous communities, it’s an important way to give local control over national concerns.
Finland to dump coal by 2030
Coal. Cheap and plentiful, it remains a mainstay of global energy production in spite of its heavy environmental costs. It’s used widely throughout the Arctic, too. Take Longyearbyen, Norway: in the remote Svalbard Islands, it’s got the dubious honor of having the world’s northernmost (as well as Norway’s only) coal power plant (TBO). Now, the Finnish government has announced that by 2030, the country will stop using coal in energy production—by statutory prohibition, if necessary (HNN).
TAKE 4: This would make Finland the first state in the world to prohibit coal (a few non-state jurisdictions like Ontario, Canada, have already done so). It’s part of a global trend to reduce dependence on the fuel. Meanwhile, neighboring coal-exporting Russia will likely feel the economic pinch from these global energy shifts (Global Risk Insights).
Arctic fishing makes global waves
The Arctic fishery is one of the region’s main economic drivers. So, things going swimmingly or belly-up in one place can change the currents in another. Iceland, which has a large fishing sector, lost 1% of its GDP to Russian trade embargoes enacted in response to Western sanctions (Sputnik). Greenland announced that, after setting its own mackerel quotas for six years, will take part in shared North Atlantic fishing regulations, which would allow other countries to fish in Greenlandic waters and allow Greenland to do the same elsewhere (TAJ)*.
TAKE 5: Studying the sustainability of mackerel fisheries has been the oft-cited reason for Greenland’s absence in international fisheries agreements. But with a projected drop in global fish supply raising prices, economic incentives have overshadowed research (Undercurrent).
* The Arctic Journal (TAJ) went offline in June 2017.